Spear Head Spade: Product Review
A Digging Tool With a Precision-First Attitude
Though a lifelong gardener, I never became a tool geek. I have put thousands of work hours on my traditional digging shovel, for instance, and a simple iron rake. I always thought them good enough.
But I write a landscape and ecology column. Last year, I went in search of locally made garden products for a holiday gift story and unearthed something that caught my eye: the Spear Head Spade. I welcomed the opportunity to review it for Gardening Products Review and have used the 41” D-grip model with a fiberglass handle and shaft for three months.
About the Spear Head Spade
Though called a spade, this tool only partially resembles one. Spades usually have a long, narrow scoop and a flat or slightly rounded tip (for more details, see our article on the differences between a shovel and a spade). The Spear Head has a sharply pointed tip, outward-curved, 35-degree beveled edges, and exaggerated “shoulders” (foot rest). The scoop is made of high carbon manganese steel that is 33% thicker and 25% harder than normal shovels. It is powder coated with epoxy resin.
In my opinion, it combines some of the best characteristics of a spade with a garden axe or knife. Instead of calling it a shovel, I think it is better described as a precision digging tool.
In addition to precision, it offers a surprising amount of leverage given its size and weight. The model I used weighs only about four pounds but feels very sturdy, perhaps because the handle is made of fiberglass, rather than wood. The size and shape of the 41-inch model proved very comfortable for me (I’m 5’8”). They offer a 30-inch mini D-handle model and a 59-inch long-handle model as well. I am not afraid to subject it to some very heavy lifting.
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Makes Quick Work of Many Digging Tasks
I have found it very valuable for the many “fine gardening” tasks that occupy the gardener’s agenda. Result: I won’t leave the shed without it.
Here are some tasks made easier with the Spear Head Spade:
- Dividing daylilies and iris. This traditionally irksome task was simplified by 50%, I felt, because the Spear Head cuts through difficult root mats so efficiently.
- Bulb planting. Spear Head combines the best of a traditional bulb planter with the power of a good shovel. I used it to put daffodils in an established grassy field.
- Lifting well established shrubs for transplant. Again, the sharp edges cut root mats quickly and the long “nose” of the scoop provides an extra few inches of depth with each dig. The result is faster, easier lifting.
- Planting landscape plugs. I like to work with landscape plugs, those deep-rooted seedlings that come in trays of 50 or more. Spear Head is not only excellent for cutting a small, precise slice where I want to place a plug but its edges are so well honed that I was able to make accurate cuts in the base of the root-bound plugs before planting. See the illustration.
- Turning a root-infested compost pile. If you’ve ever let a compost pile sit too long, you know the problem of root nets. Again, Spear Head made quick work of freeing the material from roots.
All of these superior functions make it a great addition to the gardener’s “tool kit” because it addresses many tasks that require both strength and precision. It does not, however, replace the traditional digging shovel. It holds much less soil, so I would never use it to move a dirt pile, for instance, or a gravel, stone dust, or mulch pile for that matter. There are other tools better adapted for that job.
Aside from being a great tool, though, the Spear Head has a great story.
The Invention and the Inventor
Spear Head Spade was invented by Daniel Mathieu of Windsor, CT, a fellow who his son, Julien, describes an “an inventor by nature all his life.” When in his 80s, with replacement hips and knees, he found the garden a challenge so he did what any good inventor would do: He created a tool to solve the problem.
According to Julien Mathieu, his father’s shovel “proved so popular with everyone who tried it, particularly women, we decided to bring it to market.” The younger Mathieu applied for a patent and the company is now almost five years old and thousands of Spear Head Spades have been delivered.
Made in the USA
All Spear Head Spades are made in the USA and are distributed in retail locations around the country.
Three Models to Choose From
All three models have the unique Spear Head shape to the scoop but the handle length and style varies. The Spear Head Spade is available in two D-handle sizes: a 41-inch handle and a 30-inch mini version. It is also available with a 59-inch straight handle. Although I found the cushioned D-handle comfortable to use, some gardeners prefer working with a longer, straight-handled shovel or spade.
Where to Buy
The Spear Head website offers a store locator, but they also sell direct through their online store. The 41-inch D-handle model I used retails for $46. The long-handled model retails for $48. The new 30-inch mini D-handle model retails for $35. Shipping is $8 – $15 depending on destination. Connecticut addresses pay sales tax if purchased online.
The spade is also available on Amazon for around $49 (with free shipping with a Prime membership).
As a precision digging tool for fine gardening tasks, I give it a perfect 5-shovel rating. I would add one word of caution, however, in an otherwise glowing review. Because Spear Head Spade sinks deep very quickly, particularly in soft soil, be cautious of buried lines such as those in dog-containment systems. As the company’s web site points out, the fiberglass handle is non-conductive but we should always be extra careful when working around electricity.
Spear Head Spade is a great addition to the tool shed—but not a replacement for other shovels. What it does, it does much, much better than less specialized digging tools.
And now over to you – Have you tried a shovel/spade like this? How did it work for you? Let us know in the comments below.
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A lightweight but strong precision digging tool
Available on Amazon